Making Sure the Animals at Frying Pan Eat Their Veggies

cowsThe better the grass, the less feed that must be purchased for the animals at Frying Pan Farm Park, so this spring the pasture areas are getting some tender loving care.

Frying Pan Farm Park fences off fields where its cows, goats and sheep eat. After recent soil tests showed the pH level in the fields was lower than ideal – the reading was 5.5 with a preference of 6.2 – Farm Manager Paul Nicholson ordered lime. A lot of it. A ton of lime is being added per acre, and four acres are getting the treatment. Nicholson said lime is slow to work, so it will be a year before its full effect is seen, but grass is coming up, so that’s a good sign. Frying Pan hasn’t put down lime in at least five years, so it was time, Nicholson said.

The pasture area also was aerated and overseeded with a grass seed mix. The Frying Pan animals are partial to orchard grass, clover and perennial rye. At any given time, about 20 animals rely on the pastures for their nourishment, according to Nicholson, and they enjoy the clover and orchard grass.

Frying Pan also takes care of its pasture land by spreading manure and using Fly Predators, beneficial bugs that control flies naturally.  Fly Predators stop pest flies by taking over a fly’s cocoon, thereby killing immature pest flies. And if the grass gets too tall, staff mows it.

Park Manager Yvonne Johnson said it’s like growing a big salad for the animals. It’s important to assure the grass is nutritious for the animals, and growing the best grass requires healthy dirt. Johnson said high acidity is a problem east of the Mississippi River, so it’s common to add lime and is part of normal agricultural care in this part of the country.

Johnson pointed out that the more grass the animals eat, the less hay the park has to buy, and that means less work and reduced costs.

Kidwell Farm’s animals are free to see in the barns or in the fields. Frying Pan Farm Park is located at 2739 West Ox Road in Herndon, Va., and is open daily dawn to dusk. Kidwell Farm is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Author Lori K. Weinraub is a volunteer writer for the Park Authority and a former national journalist for The Associated Press.


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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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